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By Phil Partington
The blinding sunlight belied the late-fall season, and the vampire blood running through Stacey’s veins only intensified it. She squinted past rows of towering office buildings that reached up to the clouds, trying to peer between them to see that sunshine glistening off the choppy waters of the bay. But no luck—the world bore little resemblance to when she was still fully human, back when the view was much clearer.
She winced and cast a sigh, clutching her wound in an effort to settle the pain. Anthony’s shop was at the bottom of the massive hill that was downtown Seattle. It hurt to walk—hurt to breathe—but it was a trek she’d need to make.
Her stride was riddled with hobbles and grunts, but she knew her camouflage hid these from those she passed by. Not from Rat, though. He gave her ear an incessant tickling with his whiskers as he poked his head over her shoulder to assess her progress.
“I’m fine,” she would grunt. “You just focus on not hating me once Anthony turns you back, once you remember what I’ve done to you.”
She kept an eye out for Biters. They typically moved in packs, and most of them lingered on the south side of town where empty warehouses and fewer cop cars made life simpler. Every so often she would see someone she thought might be staring at her—this was as good a sign as any of a Biter. But in all cases, the person simply looked in another direction after a moment or two. Biters didn’t have this kind of forethought to be stealthy. They were as mad as the Wonderland’s Hatter.
The walk took longer than it might have for an ordinary person, because her route was anything but ordinary. She couldn’t simply stroll down the hill in a direct path. She had to circumvent the tunnels where the sub-rails emerged to become light rail busses, and then she had to detour again at several construction sites. These dark places were ideal for Biters to hide out, and she hadn’t the strength to face more of them. So when she finally arrived at the market on Pike Street, the waterfront fish marts were closing one by one as the moon usurped the sun’s throne in the sky. The night life in these parts wasn’t all that bad, but in this limbo time of the day, when most sat down for dinner, all was as quiet as it was going to get.
On the far end of Pike Street, under the massive highway overpasses, several run-down shops sat between the great cement pillars. Among these was Anthony’s shop. Though it would take her several walks back and forth before she remembered which was his, she would eventually recognize the dark, brown walls, flat roof and modest staircase leading to a shoddy porch. And, of course, the flowery drapes that made her think an elderly grandmother ought to have lived there. Anthony had once told her they were there when he moved in and he liked them, so that was that.
That was that.
She winced again and checked her wounds. Her shirt had soaked up so much blood that it was half red. Rat simply stared down her front, his pink eyes wide in a blank rat-stare.
“Let’s go,” she said. “Anthony will be surprised to see us, I’m sure.”
She only hoped he had forgotten about their last visit so many years ago.
Word Count: 582